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Heavy rain throws wet blanket on region

Many events canceled, but Marathon still on

Patty Flynn of Medford viewed the surf on Revere Beach as a northeaster brought high winds and driving rain to the coast at evening high tide. Many of today's events have been canceled. (john bohn/GLOBE STAFF)

No Paul Revere impersonators. No Battle of Lexington reenactments. No parades.

A major storm that brought pounding rain, stinging sleet, and 50-mile-per-hour winds to the region yesterday halted many Patriots Day events that draw Revolutionary War aficionados, but it was not enough to cancel today's Boston Marathon for thousands of participants willing to brave the soggy conditions.

Three to five inches of rain was expected to soak Greater Boston by this morning, the National Weather Service reported . While winds were expected to die down, officials predicted gusts would still whip at 15 to 20 miles an hour.

The downpour compelled the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to activate its State Emergency Operations Center in Framingham last night to monitor the storm.

"We're watching the high tides coming in, and our initial concern is the potential for coastal flooding," spokesman Paul Judge said. "Over the next couple of days, we could see at least moderate flooding and erosion, and urban street flooding. This is going to be a multi day event, and we have activated 24/7 services, remaining open until the event is over to help the local communities."

The storm prompted Boston officials to cancel this morning's flag-raising ceremony, parade, and reenactment of Paul Revere's ride (alerting residents to the arrival of British combatants in 1775). Yesterday's Red Sox-Angels game also was postponed, but this morning's match up was still scheduled late last evening .

In Lexington, though a planned 5-mile road race today was still on, officials canceled this morning's re enactment of the 1775 Battle of Lexington. The move caused some to reflect on how rain might have affected the revolutionaries, who fought under sunny skies in 50-degree temperatures. "I do find myself wondering if the militia would have canceled their battle," said would-be spectator Noelle Dye, 46, of Charlestown, as she stood at the foot of the Old North Bridge in Concord.

Others decried the cancellation as the result of a society more concerned with comfort than honoring history. "I don't think there are a lot of hardy New Englanders left," said Purdy Bottino, of Plymouth, who spent the weekend in Concord with her husband and friends to partake in Patriots Day activities. "There are a lot of transients now who don't have that hardy New England spirit."

Carl Valente, Lexington's town manager, said officials and re enactors canceled the event because they feared participants could suffer hypothermia, particularly those playing casualties who would have had to lie on cold wet grass during much of the roughly 20-minute battle.

It is believed to be the first time the decades-old event, which would have featured 55 Minutemen and about 125 British soldiers, has been canceled.

"It's very disappointing," Valente said. "This is not only a long-standing event, but it allows Lexington to celebrate its rich history. "

Flood warnings were issued for Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk counties until 9:30 a.m. today. Warnings also were issued for urban areas in Rhode Island and Connecticut and for some small streams . The storm wreaked havoc on some roads, forcing the state and the city of Revere to close a storm gate across Winthrop Parkway. Authorities rerouted traffic between Winthrop and Revere to local streets. A quarter-mile of Greenough Boulevard in Watertown also was closed because of flooding.

In cities and towns where flooding has historically destroyed property and forced evacuations, officials cleared storm drains and handed out sandbags to worried residents.

In Peabody, Department of Public Works employees had passed out about 2,000 bags by the end of the day.

Camille McKenney, who said her house on Pierpont Street has been flooded twice in the last 11 months, lined about 40 sandbags against the structure and another 40 against a fence in her driveway.

"I'm thinking about having the house raised 4 feet to get me out of this mess," she said. "I'm tired of it. My house is getting ruined."

As of 10:30 p.m., Richard Carnevale, public works director in Peabody, said there was no evident flooding there.

There is potential for coastal flooding today and river flooding tomorrow, said Bill Simpson, spokesman for the National Weather Service in Taunton , who warned that winds would hamper pedestrians, joggers, and especially Boston Marathon runners.

"Running 26 miles in 40-degree weather and a headwind is not as bad as running in torrential downpours," he said. "But, boy, that's going to be a drag."

Runners picking up their race numbers at the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston yesterday took a stalwart stance against the forecast.

Albert Allen, 62, of Los Angeles, who has run in 22 marathons, some in temperatures above 90 degrees, said he could brave the cold rain in just a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. "I sweat a lot," he said. "I prefer the cold."

He said he worried more about his friends, Antonia Routt, 51, and Adell Williams, 59, also from Los Angeles, who planned to cheer him on from the street. "It's harder on them than it is for us," he said. "At least we're moving."

Sybil Carven, 41, of Kittery Point, Maine, said she would watch the event on television. In the last four years, she has stood dutifully on the streets while her husband, Tim, ran.

"Because of this weather and the fact that I'm nine months pregnant, I'm not going to," she said as she played with her 18-month-old daughter, Caroline, at the convention center. "I feel kind of bad. It's so sad because it's the crowds that carry people through these things."

Tim Carven, 43, an elementary school physical education teacher, said he planned to wear a tight undershirt, a long-sleeved shirt, and thermal underwear to avoid the shivers, though he worried the gear might slow his running.

"If you wear too much, it's going to get waterlogged, and you're going to have to carry it the whole way," he said.

His wife had simple advice for him on how to avoid hypothermia.

"Run fast," she said.

Globe correspondent Erin Conroy contributed to this report. Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com

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